It’s no longer enough to watch the shows you already know. Content is in short supply. Although television has a rich history that dates back decades, you may not be aware of how much — or not — is available to stream. It’s worth taking the time to find the original shows that were available before the Peak TV streaming age. You will be able to laugh, cry and scratch your head while watching some of the most classic TV shows right now.
All in the Family (1971-1979).
The Norman Lear-created series is still one of the most controversial shows from the 1970s. The series featured Carroll O’Connor playing the outspoken bigot Archie Bunker. It also showed how he dealt with the changing world, especially his feminist daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and her husband Rob Reiner. After reading an article in Variety, Lear felt inspired to start the series. It reminded him of his father’s relationship with him. “All in the Family” aimed to highlight the changing relationships between generations. Archie was confronted by his racism and narrow-minded views. After its 1979 end, the series was relaunched in several other spin-offs, including “Maude” (the most well-known) and “The Jeffersons.” In 2019, the series returned to television with a special live recreation, which won an Emmy. Apple TV offers four seasons of “All in the Family.”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977).
Mary Tyler Moore taught us that we are “gonna make it” after all. Moore, who was already a star in “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” was Mary Richards, a single, opinionated woman who worked as an assistant producer at a Minneapolis news station. Its focus on adult issues, especially those that affect women, made the series a beloved television series. Tina Fey, the creator of “30 Rock”, has mentioned “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as an inspiration. The show won 29 Emmys over its seven-year run and made stars of Moore, Cloris Leachman and Valarie Harper. You can stream “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” via Hulu.
The Honeymooners (1955-1956).
The Honeymooners began as a series on DuMont’s “Cavalcade Of Stars” variety show. Jackie Gleason was the creator of the series. He then began doing sketches for his own series, “The Jackie Gleason Show.” CBS created a sitcom about Ralph Kramden, a bus driver who is a put-upon and his relationships with his wife and best friend. The series is dated because Ralph’s method of solving conflicts threatens to kill his wife and send him “to the moon.” However, “The Honeymooners,” which set up many of these conflicts over the years, also showcased a live show with minimal editing. The series’ send-up, featuring Ralph Crumden the mouse, might be familiar to those who grew up with Looney Tunes reruns. Amazon Prime Video is the best way to view “The Honeymooners”.
This spin-off from the 1950s-set series Happy Days featured Penny Marshall as Shirley and Cindy Williams respectively. They worked at a Milwaukee brewery, while trying to find boyfriends. By the third season, “Laverne and Shirley,” had been the most watched American television series. This was largely due to the way Marshall and Williams played off one another as well as the colourful side characters such as Lenny and Squiggy (played respectively by Michael McKean and David Lander). Although the series didn’t win an Emmy or Golden Globe, it was popularized by Cyndi Grecco’s catchy theme song. On the Happy Days channel on Pluto TV, you can see “Laverne and Sylvia” and “Mork and Mindy”.
The Love Boat (1977-1986).
Today, you might see your favorite stars in reruns on “CSI” and “Law and Order,” but there was a time when stars dropped in on “The Love Boat.” This drama and comedy series focused on the hijinks that took place aboard a cruise ship. The story of the week was the only plot. This allowed big stars such as Ann Miller, Carol Channing and Olivia de Havilland to get a chance to introduce themselves to viewers. It was a huge success for CBS and has been a staple in syndication eversince. Paramount+ has made it possible to watch “The Love Boat” all the way through.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1962-1965)
The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, is the best way to learn horror and tension. The series’ iconic theme music plays, and Hitchcock’s shadow appears to complete his outline. This tells the viewers to expect excitement for 26-50 minutes depending on the season. Hitchcock presents each story in the anthology series, which generally involves crime and deceit. The series was created right as Rod Serling’s series “The Twilight Zone”, was ending. It is often considered to be in partnership with the series. Hitchcock directed 17 episodes. Other big names behind the cameras during the series’ run included Robert Altman and Ida Lupino, as well as William Friedkin and Arthur Hiller. The acting showcase will include appearances by Bette Davis, Bruce Dern, Steve McQueen and Bruce Dern. The entire series can be streamed on Hulu.
The Flintstones (1960-1966).
The modern Stone Age family can be met on television! The animated sitcom was created by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna in 1960s as a riff of “The Honeymooners”. It aired on ABC for six seasons. The series’ opening credits will remind you that it follows Fred Flintstone and his wife Wilma as they travel through the Stone Age, with an eye toward the future. The show was also the first to feature A-list guest stars such as Ann-Margret (playing Ann-Margrock) and Tony Curtis (playing Stony Curtis). It has been a classic in animation history and television. The show inspired a number of merchandise, films, and theme parks. You can stream The Flintstones via Amazon by signing up for Boomerang.
The New Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
You’ll know the theme song the moment you see it. DirectTV and Sling offer six seasons of the series that brought us Will Smith. Smith is a West Philadelphia teen who was “born and raised” in West Philadelphia. He then moves to Los Angeles to live with his family, Bel Air. Benny Medina, the music mogul, was behind “The Fresh Prince”, which was actually based on his life. In the 1990s, the idea of a black teenager living with a wealthy white family was a common plot line in many series. Instead, the show created a world of African-Americans, and more importantly, put the spotlight on a family of black residents in a wealthy white neighborhood. The six-season-long series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which covered everything from parent abandonment to racial profiling, touched on a variety of serious topics. It became a popular topic because it explored how wealthy African-Americans had acted in order to be accepted and loved by their white peers. We also got to see Smith’s charisma, and the Carlton dance.
The Golden Girls (1985-1992).
Hulu’s “The Golden Girls” streaming stream is a great alternative to hanging out with friends. The seven-season run of “The Golden Girls” on NBC focused on four single older women who find themselves living in Miami together. If they weren’t already, the show’s ensemble stars were household names (including Betty White, living legend). The show became a huge success in 1985, and it was viewed with an ensemble of women for the first time since “I Love Lucy.” “The Golden Girls,” which won 11 Emmy Awards during its run, each actress winning an individual award. Importantly, “The Golden Girls,” which focuses on women over 50, broke the mold. This is still a rare phenomenon.
I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
You can stream the most iconic sitcom on Hulu and CBS in its entirety, in its original non-colorized form. Lucille Ball portrays the eccentric Lucy Arnaz, who over 181 episodes, does everything possible to “be in” the show put on by Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz). “I Love Lucy” is a beloved and influential television show. Ball’s physical comedy was second to none and inspired many imitations in the 1950s. Its portrayal of Latinos and the role of women during the 1950s has inspired many essays and thought pieces. This has helped to enhance its reputation. It’s a wonderful series that will bring a smile to your face. An episode of “I Love Lucy”, will give you a quick boost.
Based on the Robert Altman 1970 movie, “M*A*S*H”, was a situation comedy about the key personnel of the United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea. The movie and the series were able to connect with viewers coming out of Vietnam War trauma. They tackled difficult topics, such as PTSD, with a mixture of seriousness and humor. Over 100 Emmy Awards were nominated for “M*A*S*H”, and 14 of them would be won. Five of those Emmy Awards would go to Alan Alda, the leading actor and director for various episodes. The final episode of the series, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”, would set a new record for viewers watching it on television. It was the highest-rated and most-watched episode of television history. Hulu offers all 11 seasons “M*A*S*H”, which you can stream over there.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001)
Mister Rogers has been the light and hope in dark times. Morgan Neville’s 2018 documentary “Won’t you Be My Neighbor?” brought Fred Rogers back into our collective consciousness. Marielle Heller took the story and turned it into a narrative with “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” last year. But, now you can go back to the beginning via Amazon Prime. The series followed Fred Rogers, the title character, as he taught children tolerance and human kindness while visiting his puppet friends from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mister Rogers might be a good choice to revisit his neighborhood now that so many people are feeling scared and uncertain.
Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996)
Nothing beats a little murder in beautiful surroundings to chase away the blues. “Murder, She Wrote” is the story of Jessica Fletcher, a successful mystery writer and sleuth, as she solves murders in Cabot Cove, Maine. The show’s title, “Murder, She Wrote”, has been a popular topic of ridicule over the years, especially because Cabot Cove is, at the very least, the murder capital in the world. Lansbury was given a second chance after a long career in movies by the series, which saw it achieving consistent ratings success over 12 seasons. The actress holds the Emmy and Golden Globe record for most nominations. Although the entire series is not available for streaming, you can access 5 of the 12 seasons via Amazon Prime.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999).
“Mystery Science Theater 3000” is a Popular TV Series that has a movie embedded in it. It was first broadcast in 1988 and became a popular staple on Comedy Central Channel’s then-burgeoning Comedy Central Channel in the 1990s. Joel Hodgson, who was eventually replaced by Mike Nelson, plays a lowly employee of the satellite of love intergalactic spaceship. The season would determine if the host and his robotic compatriots were forced to watch a horrible B-movie while providing commentary at the bottom. The series featured bad-movie classics such as “Manos: The Hands of Fate”, and is great to watch with those who love so-bad-they-are-good movies. It was relaunched on Netflix in 2017, with a new slate of bad content but nothing like the original. The Shout Factory allows you to access classic episodes of MST3K. App available on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Pluto TV also offers a 24/7 channel that is exclusively dedicated to the show. You can watch it for free every day on Pluto TV.
Perry Mason (1957-1966).
Now is the perfect time to revisit Perry Mason, the original detective before HBO relaunches the series with Matthew Rhys. Erle Stanley Gardner wrote the first novels about the Los Angeles-based criminal defense lawyer. The books were then adapted into six feature movies, starring Warren William as Mason. The novels were also adapted into a series of 15-minute radio episodes for CBS Radio, which ran from 1943-1955. The most well-known version saw Raymond Burr play Mason, helping the wrongly accused to get justice. “Perry Mason,” outdistanced all its competitors in ratings, especially “Bonanza,” who was a juggernaut in television. This made the cancellation of the show in 1966 a mystery that has never been solved. Although the show was revived in 1973, it lasted only half a season. Seven of the nine seasons can be streamed via CBS.
The Rockford Files (1974-1980).
While there have been many sharp-dressed police officers in film and television, Jim Rockford is the best. Jim Rockford, a private detective who solves crimes from a trailer in Los Angeles, is like Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade. It’s 1970s cheese with lots of dated costumes, and long hair. Garner’s charisma and charm make the series very watchable. The Rockford Files just seemed so cool and slick. This is probably why the series was not revived. A 2010 TV reboot starring Dermot Mulloney failed, while a 2011 feature film starring Vince Vaughn did not make it to the big screen. IMDb TV offers all six seasons of “The Rockford Files,” which you can stream right now.
The Simpsons (1989-Present).
While “The Flintstones”, the animated sitcom, was the first to be broadcast on primetime, “The Simpsons,” has been in a similar spot for more than 30 years. There are many books and essays that tell the story of the Simpsons living in Springfield with their neighbors. What can you expect from the longest-running American sitcom, and the longest-running American scripted primetime show in TV history? There isn’t a single piece of popular culture “The Simpsons” hasn’t mocked or praised. But it’s a show that doesn’t necessarily have to be sold. It’s worth watching because you have probably seen several episodes and are just looking for the joy of seeing old friends. All 30 seasons of “The Simpsons”, which is over 600 episodes, can be streamed on Disney+.
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964).
The anthology series “The Twilight Zone” was created by Rod Serling in 1959. It explored topics Serling found fascinating, including questions about morality and definitions of happiness, greed, or desire. Many episodes dealt with the military, Serling was a veteran of the Army and one of the first to address racism against Asian-Americans. Every episode ended with a twist or a moral and Serling’s introduction and outros to the camera reminding the audience that they’ve just entered “The Twilight Zone.” It is one of few classic cable shows that has a regular marathon on New Year’s Day as well as the Fourth of July. Some of the classic film stars, such as Roddy McDowall and Ida Lupino were featured in episodes. Jordan Peele would revive the series and present them as longer episodes on CBS All Access. You can watch the original series on Hulu, where you can stream them all. This is because they are uncut since Syfy Channel cuts them to fit commercial breaks.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
You can stream the entire first season of David Lynch’s mind-bending mystery on Hulu or CBS. The series follows FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), who is assigned to Twin Peaks, Washington to solve Laura Palmer’s murder. It was expected that the series would die quickly after it premiered against “Cheers.” The first two episodes were well-received by a large audience, and received huge critical acclaim. It was a show unlike any others and there was a drastic drop in episodes between the first two episodes. ABC, the network that broadcast the show, didn’t get the meaning of the series. They believed it was a typical murder-show, even though Laura Palmer’s death was a MacGuffin. The network moved the first season around. Lynch and ABC were at odds by the second season and the series was forced to be cancelled. Lynch would go on to have a successful movie career, despite the show’s remarkable popularity. In 2017, the series would be revived, attracting even more critic love than its previous incarnation.
The Wonder Years (1988-1993).
Who doesn’t love a good coming-of-age drama? “The Wonder Years” is about suburban teenager Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), and his family, friends, girlfriend, as they go through 1968-1973. Both Baby Boomers, who grew up in the period the series was set in, and adolescents and teens from the late-1980s were drawn to the series. The reason “The Wonder Years” was cancelled in 1993, just like the “Lizzie McGuire” controversy, was that ABC and the producers couldn’t agree how to make Kevin mature. ABC preferred simpler storylines. The Wonder Years would inspire a flood of teen dramas and lead to the creation of “My So-Called Life” and “My So-Called Life.” “American Dreams,” a NBC series, would draw comparisons to “The Wonder Years,” with its 1960s setting. Hulu streams “The Wonder Years.”